There are just so many different ways to stream music today. In fact, there are so many options out there that it can be hard to know which of these options will work best for your personal listening habits and, more importantly, which will work best for your budget.
This guide will walk you through all of the major music streaming services on offer today and the basics of what each platform offers to users.
Also, please remember that many of these services offer multiple subscription plans at different price points, and some of these options are only available to specific groups like students or those sharing an account with other people.
Ads or no ads, that is the question
Before we get into each of the streaming services and what sets them each apart, it’s time to ask yourself a big question: would you be comfortable listening to ads in between songs or do you not want ads anywhere near your music?
This is a very important question when picking out a music streaming service. If you don’t mind ads, then you actually have quite a few options that will be available to you for no charge.
For example, a free Spotify account will let you listen to tons of music as long as you can put up with having some audio ads in the mix.
Likewise, you can listen to thousands of different songs on YouTube from a web browser, but there will definitely be ads there as well.
But if you can’t stand having your playlist interrupted to hear about yet another meal kit delivery service, then premium accounts will be the way to go with whatever service you choose.
Pandora has been around for quite a long time, at least in terms of online music streaming services.
Pandora not only makes it easy for users to listen to their favorite artists, it also helps users find new music that’s similar to what they already like.
The service operates by creating virtual radio stations based around input from the user. So if you tell the site that you want to listen to something like Coldplay (don’t worry, we won’t make fun of you for it), Pandora will queue up other artists whose work sounds similar to Coldplay.
But what about pricing? Well, as we mentioned in the introduction, Pandora is one of the services that offers a free option. Just create an account and start listening.
However, the free option will include ads and will not let you choose specific songs to listen to on-demand. You’ll have to wait for your favorites to come up in the cycle.
If you’re willing to pay, there’s an option for $4.99 per month, which allows you to pick and choose songs, but you’ll still have ads.
The $9.99 per month option gives you all the perks, removing ads, letting you choose specific songs, listen offline, and create playlists of your own.
YouTube Music seemingly came out of nowhere and many people still don’t fully understand what the service is all about. After all, can’t users just listen to any music they want to when they’re on YouTube?
Well, this successor to Google Play is actually about offering a full-on music streaming service to YouTube users.
YouTube Music is included in YouTube Premium subscriptions, which are currently going for $12.99 per month.
YouTube Music can also be purchased as its own product for $9.99 per month. But the benefit of including it in a YouTube Premium subscription is that you’ll also get ads removed from your typical YouTube experience, which, if you’re on YouTube often, is a huge bonus.
Another big selling point is that YouTube Premium allows you to listen to music (specifically music attached to videos of any kind) while your screen is off, which just isn’t possible with the normal YouTube experience.
What can we say about Spotify that hasn’t already been said by all of your family members and friends who already use it?
Ever since Spotify opened shop in the U.S., it’s been hard to avoid being exposed to it in some way. As one of the first fully-fledged streaming services (as opposed to download-based music services like the iTunes of old), Spotify attracted a lot of attention, including some negative press about how little they paid artists who were supplying their music to the platform.
Basically, Spotify offers you the features you would want from a nearly limitless music library. Yes, there’s a free option available, but signing up for a subscription plan is going to make the experience more enjoyable.
You can make your own playlists, search for playlists from other users and the Spotify staff alike, and find playlists from verified artists. You can even create collaborative playlists for parties or road trips where you want everyone to be able to contribute.
The standard Spotify Premium subscription cost is $9.99 per month for an individual. If you want to sign up with a friend or as part of a family friend, you’ll be spending even less, and if you’re still a student, definitely take advantage of the student subscription option for $4.99.
Amazon Music Unlimited gives users access to thousands of different albums in exchange for a monthly subscription fee of just $7.99, making it one of the least expensive options on our list.
If you already have an Amazon Prime subscription and you find yourself on the site often, this service could be for you!
Apple Music is a relatively new platform meant to directly compete with Spotify. The cost of a subscription is the same as that of the Spotify Premium individual plan, $9.99.
Of course, Apple Music boasts a huge library and many of the same features that Spotify offers to its users.
Apple Music is perhaps best suited to those who are already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. Apple Music makes it easy to listen from your iPhone, your MacBook, or your Apple Watch.